Migraines in Tea-Drinking Countries

While I wrote the book, I tried hard as I may to incorporate all migraine types since migraine affects the brain initially the same way and for the same reason: the brain cells’ (neurons’) lack of ability to work as a result of inappropriate quantity of voltage generating and hydrating ions. Simple you think; just add more.

While the book’s method works very well for people in the US, I find that in the case of two other countries, UK and Australia, where there seem to be enough life style differences in comparison to the US, the standard method does not appear to work effectively. At the time I wrote the book, I tried to join migraine groups of these countries but it seemed that they were not interested in an American scientist and what she had to ask or say and so I never really had the chance to understand these differences.

The Fighting the Migraine Epidemic book by now has achieved quite a bit of success with US migraine sufferers will create a testimonials link as soon as I can. However, it has not yet been as successful in the UK and in Australia. Part of the reason is that people in these countries seem to have different types of migraines! In the US most migraines are classic (just horrendous pain, sick to stomach, dizzy, etc.,) or complex (comes with aura as well). Only a fraction of a percent of the US migraineurs has what is called a Hemiplegic Migraine. This is a form of migraine that starts typically with a blind spot and aura as the complex does but then it progresses into muscle weakness to downright muscle paralysis of one side of the body in whole or in part.

Hemiplegic Migraines are a lot more serious migraines than classic or complex ones because there is a higher risk of stroke and seizure with possible permanent effects.

What may be the reason for the US having fewer Hemiplegic Migraineurs than the UK or Australia?

Migraine is genetic but genes mean nothing until their switch is turned on–the gene gets expressed. It is unknown at this point if a particular type of migraine is represented by a particular type of gene or if particular lifestyles turn on a gene in a different way at a different time–we do have information on several types of genes in Hemiplegic Migraine cases but not everyone with those genes comes down with migraines, and if they do, not everyone comes down with Hemiplegic ones. It is not clear from the point of genetics how and why a migraine becomes Hemiplegic.

Now the book is also available in the UK and in Australia. Since I encourage private conversations with my readers to make sure they have no other health conditions that may interfere with my recommendations, I have been able to obtain more information on the possible causes for why people in the UK and Australia suffer different migraines and why those migraines are not responding as well to the standard US treatment.

Thus I am writing this note to those who live in the UK or Australia.

One of the reasons why the standard methodology in the book is not working as well in these countries is that some of the minerals, such as salt, are not available in many of the foods in these countries. I was talking to one of the book users in the UK and I suggested that she buy some crackers with salt. She advised me that there are no more crackers with salt in the UK and the whole country is salt free. Furthermore there are no sport drinks without artificial sweeteners, etc. Artificial sweeteners can often be migraine triggers. Also, since they are toxins the body doesn’t know what to do with, they may leave the brain with serious problems (you can read about it in Fat Chance by Robert H. Lustig). It seems that the whole country of the UK went salt free and sugar-free in the name of “health” creating a huge migraine epidemic of a very serious kind that cannot even be easily remedied because of the lack of availability of proper minerals in everyday food items. Yes, heart health is a concern but even the heart cannot function without salt–it too has pumps that depend on salt. Lack of salt can have immediate, adverse consequences and can even be fatal in a relatively short time, whereas too much salt may be harmful (not lethal) in a long time, over 20-40 years. Which would you choose?

Furthermore, in the UK in particular, the first line of treatment for any migraine is still vascular, meaning vasoconstrictors (drugs that reduce the size of blood vessels to increase blood pressure) or vasorelaxers (beta blockers and similar that reduce blood pressure). There are two problems with this approach:

  1. If one needs to constrict blood vessels, one can have a cup of tea and the job is done. The problem is that people in the UK–and also in Australia–drink a lot of tea! Thus if they receive medication to increase their blood pressure and also drink tea, they can have only a trickle of blood flowing but it will come at a high enough pressure–the problem of course is that blood volume is reduced and so less oxygen and nutrients can reach the brain.
  2. The second problem is the beta blockers. Most migraine sufferers have low blood pressure to start with but they are often treated with blood pressure reducing drugs, causing even less of a chance for the brain to get enough blood. I had talked to people from the UK whose CT scan of the brain showed parts of their brain not getting any blood at all. Well, do we expect a brain to work on nothing?

So if you have migraines in the UK or Australia, please note that drinking tea means a ton of caffeine that reduces blood volume while increasing pressure and constricting the veins. This is a major problem since anything with caffeine is diuretic-it chases water out of the body. Thus people in these countries who suffer from migraines are so dehydrated and the drugs they often take are so much the opposite of what they need, that this alone would explain the frequency of Hemiplegic Migraines in comparison to the US and why the process described in my book does not have a chance of working as effectively.

My book assumes that each person knows how much water to drink a day–there are plenty of apps for smart phones and also plenty of online calculators. I, for example, need to drink 10 glasses of water in the winter and 12 in the summer based on my location (hot and dry), age, elevation, physical activity, etc., and that I neither drink alcohol nor soft drinks or tea, only one small espresso a day.

When I ask UK or Australian people how much water, soft drinks, coffee, tea, alcohol they drink, I get answers like: I drink 2-4 glasses of water a day, 2-3 glasses of soft drinks, 2-3 teas, 1 coffee, and I may have an alcoholic drink a day.

Since soft drinks have some salt, they are halfway diuretic because of the sugar or sugar substitutes: tea, coffee and alcohol are fully diuretic. So for each cup of tea, coffee, and alcohol, there better be equal number of cups of water added just to make up for their diuretic effects and a half cup of water for each cup of soft drink. Thus, someone drinking 4 glasses of water and 3 glasses of soft drinks, 3 teas, 1 coffee, and 1 glass of alcohol, is drinking negative 2.5 glass of water–that is, rather than gaining the body is losing water.

In terms of the other minerals in the book, like salt, my book assumes some salt in the diet since the US diet is full of it. If food in the UK and Australia is without salt, just to be at the US baseline for my book, salt must be added.

Yesterday I asked a mom from Australia, whose daughter just had her first episode of Hemiplegic Migraine, what food her daughter eats and her response was: oh she eats a very healthy diet. Yep… healthy diet typically means minimal salt. Vegetarians are the most likely to get migraines and be dehydrated since vegetables only contain trace amounts of salt.

To summarize, if you are from the UK or Australia please note that the recommendations of my book need to be modified depending on how much tea you drink, artificial sweeteners you eat or drink and how little salt you eat.

Please contact me for more information and for help calculating your needs. Please join the Facebook migraine group I created or send me an email: angela@migraine-book.com

About Angela A Stanton, Ph.D.

Angela A Stanton, PhD, is a Neuroeconomist focusing on chronic pain, electrolyte homeostasis, and genetics. She lives in Southern California. Her current research is focused on migraine cause, prevention and treatment without the use of medicines. As a forever migraineur from childhood, her discovery was helped by experimenting on herself. She found the cause of migraine to be at the ionic level, associated with disruption of the electrolyte homeostasis, resulting from genetic variations of all voltage gated channels that modulate electrolytes and voltage in the brain, insulin and glucose transporters, and several other related variants, such as the MTHFR variants of the B vitamin methylation process and many others. Migraineurs are glucose sensitive and should avoid eating carbs as much as possible. As a result of the success of the first edition of her book and new research and findings after treating over 4000 migraineurs world wide, all ages and both genders, she is now finishing the 2nd edition. The 2nd edition is the “holy grail” of migraines, incorporating all there is to know and also hypotheses. It includes an academic research section with suggestions for further research. The book is full of citations to authenticate the statements she makes to be followed up by those interested and to spark further research interest. It is a "Complete Guide". Due out in the summer of 2017. Dr. Stanton received her BSc at UCLA in Mathematics, MBA at UCR, MS in Management Science and Engineering at Stanford University, PhD in NeuroEconomics at Claremont Graduate University, and fMRI certification at Harvard University Medical School at the Martinos Center for Neuroimaging for experimenting with neurotransmitters on human volunteers. For relaxation Dr. Stanton paints and photographs. Follow her on Twitter at: @MigraineBook
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11 Responses to Migraines in Tea-Drinking Countries

  1. Moongazer says:

    Ps – I did have 3 hemiplegic migraines whilst pregnant with my youngest daughter 24 years ago. But none between then and this year. Only back then, the drs could only tell me “it must be some weird kind of migraine”.

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    • Hemiplegic migraine is very common in the UK for some reason–not so common elsewhere. It is a migraine in which part of your body–typically one side, often the entire side–goes numb and without feeling for some length of time that can be short like a few minutes to several days. It is not a stroke but similar in that your body is basically paralyzed for the time of the length of the migraine. The cause is now understood–see the articles I referred you to earlier and you will see that the problem is lack of proper ionic balance in salt and water that causes depolarized regions in the brain. Depolarized regions do not work hence the lack of feelings. Not everyone experiences hemiplegic migraine with depolarization. The size of the depolarized area matters. The recovery of depolarization is to repolarize–you will read this in the article that the brain tries to do on its own and is called cortical spreading but the problem is that the brain region that has no polarity has so because of lack of ionic balance. So you need to correct that by eating the proper minerals that can create that balance. The information on that is in the articles I sent you to and also in my book Fighting the Migraine Epidemic to which I also sent a UK link earlier.

      Liked by 1 person

  2. Moongazer says:

    I have been reading your blog with great interest this morning. I am in the UK. I occasionally have a cup of herbal tea. I have one mug of coffee or tea a day and the rest of the time I drink squash or plain water. I have kept away from artificial sweeteners (esp aspartame) as much as possible for about 15 years. I have had fibromyalgia for 7 years. Lifelong asthma and multiple anaphylactic allergies (i carry an epipen), my migraines (complex with auras) started when I first took the pill. I stopped taking the pill after 4 years but my migraines continued – maybe 3 a year – but bad enough to need total darkness and sleep for 2 days. Until the last couple of years, that is. I had been going to my gp worried because one side of my face “wasnt working properly”. When I smiled, only one side would lift. When I talked I could feel (and others could see) that one side wasnt as “animated” or ‘agile’ as the other. I had an mri brain scan which was clear. In the end we decided it must be yet another manifestation of FM. meanwhile, my migraines were coming at the rate of about 3 a month so I was given Topirimate, which helped at first. In February this year I was admitted to A&E by ambulance for a suspected TIA. I am 47 btw. A CAT scan was clear so I was diagnosed with hemiplegic migraine. The topirimate was doubled. For the next 3 months I had migraine symptoms of one form or another most days. Sometimes muscular, sometimes just aura or blind spot, or pain. Sometimes more than one, or all at once. It was a nightmare. I became bedbound (i also had tremendous emotional stress at the time) and each hour almost was a russian roulette of migraine.
    I was also depressed. I was given low dose duloxetine for my fm. This was increased 7 mths before my admittance to A&E due to stress after a car accident.
    In july this year, I had had enough. I was suicidal.
    I had been researching non drug options for easing depression for someone else and worked out that my own depression was more dopamine based (I did psychology at uni which helped my understanding) and I realised it was no wonder my depression hadnt improved with cymbalta. So, I took the amino acid route. Hours and hours of research went into this before I realised someone had already written a book about it lol (The mood cure).
    It took a lot of stubbornness to come of the cymbalta – the side effects were horrific and kept me bed bound. But I did it 😀 !!! And guess what? My migraines improved dramatically. I think I have had 2 mild ones since August/september. I no longer take any amino acids and my mood is generally good. My sleep is still a massive issue. Most of this year I have existed on 2-3 hrs two or 3 times a day. Only twice (until the last few days) have I had a run of a week or so of full sleep.
    My FM is an absolute nightmare due to spending most of the last 10 mths in bed either too depressed or due to migraine or extreme dizziness etc, but I am working on regaining my strength bit by bit, day by day…..slow and steady.
    I am convinced that the cymbalta caused my migraines to be so bad. I am on the list for therapy to deal with the deeper causes of my depression and under the care of a psychiatrist who (eventually) respected my choice “to self medicate” lol.
    You can maybe see why your blog is so interesting to me 🙂
    Sorry for the length of this!!

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    • I have a real problem with drinking squash Moongazer. It is a sweetened drink with sugar. Sugar is a diuretic and constricts blood vessels. It can cause migraines. I have yet to find a person in the UK who drinks water without any flavoring–I have found only one person so far and she is my friend! But everyone else is drinking water with some sort of cordial. That is totally wrong. Every person should have 8-10 glasses of pure water each day with the appropriate amount of salt for proper ionic balance to prevent migraines. I responded on hemiplegic on your other post already. Depression is part of the depolarization I mentioned earlier. It is also caused by the lack of enough serotonin release since you do not have enough sun in the UK (sun releases serotonin). But you can increase your natural serotonin without any drugs by eating foods that are high in serotonin–and this will also answer you sleep problem. Most people fall asleep after a turkey sandwich lunch… turkey has a lot of serotonin. If they fall asleep after lunch, this will also work after dinner. So have a turkey sandwich for dinner. Many fruits that are yellow (papaya) are high in serotonin. If you have no sun, you can invest in a sun lamp. That too will release serotonin. There are many things you can do to reduce your depression on a natural way without any medicines. Dopamine manages anxiety and also endogenous (clinical) depression but doctors fear prescribing benzodiazepines like it was a hot rod! Yet that is the only thing that works.

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  3. This is very interesting, thank you, Angela. I drink cups and cups of tea every day. I didn’t know it was restricting blood flow to the brain. I have been going off rescue drugs such as triptans and nsaids quite successfully for once to reduce the easily present lake of serotonin I seem to drown in. I was also pleased to reduce sumatriptan because of the restriction of blood and therefore oxygen to the head. The short term fix that works this way must be likely to harm in the long run, I’d think. Now I find I may have been doing the same or worse, anyway, with tea. At least black tea is not a serotonin agonist as well.

    However, I won’t be able to drop the tea drinking for now. I need more water. Perhaps back of the neck relaxation and stimulation routines would aid we tea drinkers. While I feel I really, really need tea at the moment, I’m hoping for that it could possibly turn out to be a stage.

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    • Gavin, tea is dehydrating you enough to say that for each cup of tea you drink you take nearly a cup of water out of your body! I understand that you don’t want to cut tea out completely, there is nothing wrong with drinking tea as long as you also drink more water and take some salt with it to retain the water and help them cleanse your cells. Drinking water only can cause major problem of water toxicity and dehydration at the same time since it washes out other nutrients from the cells using osmotic gradient (nutrition moves from higher concentration to lower concentration to equalize) through channels in cell walls. So while water never enters the cells, it actually washes the nutrition out of the cells, causing severe dehydration. This can also be fatal if taken to the extreme. So please be sure to eat salt with your water and for each cup of tea you drink (black tea is very high in caffeine!) you drink a nearly equivalent amount of water and a bit of salt. OK? And it will help you. Glad you are successful at going off tryptan drugs and NSADs! If you keep up with the hydration, you may also be able to drop Sumatriptan, which is also a serotonin drug and a really bad one too that can cause sulfuration of the blood, making it greenish-black! It really is a very bad drug. It is an agonist, meaning it makes serotonin receptors more excited when they see it and suck the medicine up more eagerly thereby giving you even more serotonin than they otherwise would take out from other serotonin drugs. I took that drug some time ago and nearly died from it… so be very careful and try to reduce as much as possible!

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  4. I shall need to read this several times to get my head round all the information (no pun intended!). I’m surprised at your UK correspondent saying there’s no salt in anything any more because I still see it listed in most convenience foods and people still put masses on their food, fresh or otherwise. I’ve always put my migraines (pretty mild) down to stress. Reading this, I realise I may have been suffering the Hemiplegic symptoms in the run-up to my series of TIAs in ’08.

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    • Is it possible perhaps that cities or counties within the UK treat things differently? I am not sure since I am not there. But I know that in some European countries there is something in the water and food that is different. I don’t recall getting migraines more than usual in the UK (I don’t drink tea) but in Iceland I just about died. And I was there with about 50 other speakers (this was an academic conference) and most women ended up with migraines. Their water has no minerals–way too pure and nearly distilled water quality. Thus there was nothing in it for the body to use as water and plus they were also putting low salt or no salt so we all ended up with migraines. Mine let out 3 days after I left Iceland to recover in Rome’s much salt! So there are very large cultural differences that affect migraines. And UK seems to have the most Hemiplegic types. There must be a reason for that! In the US there are barely a few but in the UK nearly all. That is a huge difference! And it is very different to distinguish TIAs and HMs… they have the same symptoms except TIA’s don’t usually hurt. But HMs can lead to TIAs very easily!

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      • I’m certainly not aware of such differences between areas in the UK. Odd. My TIAs certainly didn’t hurt but oh my it was weird. I was reading something out to my chap about our television naturalist, David Attenborough, and his name came out more like Albus Dumbledore!

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        • lol, there is nothing funny about TIA but it sure is funny how you put it. There are some studies that show that from age 35 on, everyone has these mini strokes only too small to notice. I wonder if I had some when suddenly I am about to say something and the whole concept of what I was thinking is gone never to be retrieved, not just that sentence… Supposedly it is “normal”… hmmm.. I wonder if you opened up the brain of a person from the era of foraging or hunter gathering.. if they too had such mini strokes–at an earlier age of course since they did not live to be past 35… lol.. but I think it is all the environmental stress–not just personal life stress but the air, the water, the food, all filled with pesticides, hormones, and antibiotics… cannot be good.

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